How Much of the Truth is Known?

As the story in The Social Dilemma goes, it is impossible to ignore the meaningful systemic changes that have affected society because of social media OR the harm that it causes offline. The truth is, it is easy to ignore a problem if we are oblivious or denying that the problem even exists. The monetization of our time and attention is camouflaged with the way technology and algorithms function.

In schools, we are forced to create policies regarding responsible use and then have to enforce or monitor social media usage by students in our classrooms. Yet, sometimes we still fail this. How many of us have agreed to the terms and conditions of programs that we store and collect student data on without really understanding them? *cough cough Google* I would suspect that all of us have simply by using Learning Management Systems, nevermind the extensions, websites, and educational platforms that, with the click of the mouse, we agree to let share and manage that data. The philosophy behind educational platforms should include free of cost, free of advertisements, and accessible for all. However, technology business models thrive on collecting data and advertisements. In spite of that we often choose the free platforms because of financial limitations. If purse strings are loosened and subscriptions for platforms are paid for, but we opt for the version with limited functionality or seemingly endless advertisements. The students’ attention becomes the price. And their data.

We also see educational policy becoming responsible for the increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide rates in teens. The Social Dilemma shares alarming statistics of these increases in younger generations. Yet, technology giants are not being held accountable for their effect on children’s mental health. Instead the Interim Provincial Education Plan focuses on mental health and well-being. Part of the interim plan is to train an individual in each school in Mental Health First Aid. Our division has put on PD on Go-To Educator Training (mental health literacy) and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training in an effort to combat this increased need for mental health services in schools. Why are schools and teachers responsible to combat this problem, and when will it be time for those who create and benefit from this business model to be responsible for the consequences? 

The Social Dilemma highlights the engagement that is found in political polarization and how algorithms are opinions embedded in code. They state that fake news spreads 6 times faster than true news which makes it possible to spread manipulative narratives at a low cost, with low effort. The disinformation-for-profit model creates the misconception of truth through views, likes, and shares. While many brush off the advancement of technology as another simple change that we will adapt to, humanity cannot adapt as fast as technology advances. In my lifetime I’ve seen navigation assistance evolve from a paper map, to portable GPS devices (Garmin, Tom Tom, etc.), to it being a feature in a vehicle, to an app on phones that provide businesses in the neighbourhood, operating hours, and contact information. Going back to my agricultural roots, I am definitely envious of teenagers who get to ride around in machinery that has a leather seat with heat, ventilation, and massage features, a refrigerator, touchscreen satellite radio, more cupholders than necessary, LED lights, cameras all over the unit, and GPS auto-steer meaning they can ride around watching sports or movies instead of listening to a crackling AM radio and no air conditioning. If I needed help 25 years ago, I would be walking to the nearest truck and driving to find my dad. Now, help is just a phone call away, in between streaming and social media activity.

As adults we know the dangers of our self worth and identity, yet we still have difficulty controlling our own usage. How am I to expect students or my own children to navigate the ‘truth’ of technology?

One thought on “How Much of the Truth is Known?

  1. It is great writing. I especially want to quote the point you said about the evolution from a paper map to a google map. Life is easier now with the advancement of technology. As well as we have to adapt to it, but the matter of great concern is we human beings cannot move along with tech advantages equally.

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